Part II - Estate of Taruk Joseph Ben-Ali

To continue our blog on the Estate of Taruk Joseph Ben-Ali, Wilburn (Taruk's wife, contestant and appellant) continued to look for Taruk, however, Taruk's disappearance was never reported to the police. Meanwhile, between June 2004 and December 2008, Hassan (Taruk's father) continued to manage the Ashby property in Taruk's name, collected rents and even forged Taruk's name on checks drawn on Taruk's bank accounts. Hassan also refinanced the Ashby property in the amount of $600,000 by forging Taruk's signature and the signature of a notary.

In November 2008, Hassan confided in Ivan Golde (Taruk's lawyer, petitioner and respondent) stating that Taruk actually died in 2004 of a drug overdose. Not wanting to report Taruk's death for fear of losing the Ashby property, Hassan had taken Taruk's body and hid it in the wall of a storage area of the building. Hassan further informed Golde that a person who had helped him hide the body was extorting substantial sums of money from him by threatening to reveal what had happened.

In December 2008, Berkeley police officers visited the Ashby property. Hassan committed suicide in front of them. A suicide note was found stating where Taruk's body can be found. Two days later, Taruk's body was found on the premises. Police believe that Taruk died four and a half years prior. Hassan left a will leaving everything he owns to his former spouse, Ann Jackson.

The police also found Taruk's purported will among Hassan's belongings. The typewritten document was dated August 16, 2002, the day before Taruk and Wilburn were to leave for a honeymoon in Hawaii. The document bore Taruk's signature as well as the signatures of two attesting witnesses, one of which was that of "Wendy Ben-Ali" with an address of "2235 Ashby #201, Berkeley, CA." The other attesting witnesses' signature was hard to decipher and the identity of the person could not be determined.

The will further stated that Taruk had one living child and shall be provided for by a life insurance policy on Taruk's life. The policy is to be held in trust for Brittany by Hassan Ben-Ali (no such life insurance policy was every found). The will also provided that Taruk's "wife," was to receive all of Taruk's personal property and his father, Hassan, was to receive all other assets. Hassan was the designated executor of the estate and Ivan Golde was named as the alternate executor. Taruk declared the document as his "Last Will and Testament."

Tune in for more on this topic on subsequent blog.

*This blog entry was not written by an Attorney and should not be construed as professional legal advice.

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